US pours $3.5 Billion Into Direct Air Capture Hubs For Carbon Removal

As part of its ambitions to move to a net-zero economy by 2050, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has been ramping up its plans to facilitate removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and drive down the cost of the technology required to do so. These efforts are set to receive a massive cash injection, with the Biden administration announcing US$3.5 billion in funding for a set of regional direct air capture hubs.

The announcement follows a string of far smaller investments that began with $22 million in 2020 and a further $24 million last year, designed to accelerate research into carbon capture technology. As part of the the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) signed by President Biden in November last year, the the DOE also announced its Carbon Negative Shot initiative. This is centered on deploying carbon capture technologies on a gigaton scale by 2050, by driving down the cost of carbon capture and storage to $100 per ton.

A gigaton is equivalent to one billion metric tons, and to put things into perspective, the world’s largest direct air capture plant currently collects around 4,000 tons of CO2 each year. Humans pump out around 30 billion tons each year, while a single gigaton is about the amount generated annually by the US’s entire light-duty vehicle fleet.

The DOE has today released a Notice of Intent, which acts as a kind of high-level draft ahead of an official funding opportunity announcement later in the year. The $3.5 billion in funding will go towards hubs that will act as regional centers for direct air capture projects, with applicants needing to demonstrate an ability to capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it. The DOE expects each of these hubs to permanently sequester a million metric tons of CO2 each year.

“The UN’s latest climate report made clear that removing legacy carbon pollution from the air through direct air capture and safely storing it is an essential weapon in our fight against the climate crisis,” said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is funding new technologies that will not only make our carbon-free future a reality but will help position the US as a net-zero leader while creating good-paying jobs for a transitioning clean energy workforce.”

The project in question, the Regional Direct Air Capture Hubs program, is funded under the bipartisan infrastructure law and will involve the construction of four regional hubs for carbon dioxide removal.CO2 removal involves sucking carbon dioxide from the surrounding air and either storing it underground or using it for products that do not release it back into the air.

It is a separate process from carbon capture, which aims to prevent the initial release of emissions outright.“CDR is a key element in scenarios that likely limit warming to 2°C or 1.5°C by 2100,” the report states. “Strategies need to reflect that CDR methods differ in terms of removal process, timescale of carbon storage, technological maturity, mitigation potential, cost, co-benefits, adverse side-effects, and governance requirements.”

Source: US pours $3.5 billion into direct air capture hubs for carbon removal

Carbon removal is the process of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it away for decades, centuries, or millennia. This could slow, limit, or even reverse climate change — but it is not a substitute for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This is because carbon removal is generally slow-acting and may not be able to be deployed at scales commensurate with society’s current greenhouse emissions. Carbon removal is sometimes referred to as carbon dioxide removal or CDR, and technologies for implementing carbon removal are sometimes called Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs).

Some prominent ideas for carbon removal include:

  • planting massive new forests (afforestation/reforestation)
  • using no-till agriculture and other practices to increase the amount of carbon stored in soils (soil carbon sequestration)
  • creating charcoal and burying it or plowing it into fields (biochar)
  • capturing and sequestering carbon from biofuels and bioenergy plants (bioenergy with CCS or BECCS)
  • spreading crushed rocks over land to absorb carbon dioxide from the air or exposing them to carbon dioxide-rich fluids (enhanced mineralization)
  • building machines that would suck carbon dioxide directly out of the atmosphere and bury it (direct air capture)
  • oceans-based methods, including:
  • spreading alkaline materials, such as lime, over the ocean (ocean alkalinization)
  • fertilizing selected areas of the ocean by spreading nutrients, such as iron, over the surface (ocean fertilization)
  • fertilizing selected areas of the ocean by pumping nutrient-rich waters from the depths to the surface (artificial upwelling)
  • accelerating the transport of carbon to the ocean depths by pumping surface waters downward (artificial downwelling)

More contents:

The trouble with negative emissions”.

The Oxford Principles for Net Zero Aligned Carbon Offsetting” 

Forests and climate change”.

Forest Protection & Climate Change: Why Is It Important?”

“Greenhouse Gas Removals: Summary of Responses to the Call for Evidence”

Managing woody bamboos for carbon farming and carbon trading”

“Carbon Farming

“Carbon Farming: Hope for a Hot Planet – Modern Farmer

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The Controversial Plan To Vacuum Carbon Out Of The Atmosphere

In its 2018 report, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that our current efforts just to lower carbon emissions aren’t enough. To prevent the worst of climate change, the world needs to remove carbon from the atmosphere in large quantities.

The idea of removing it from the air at any kind of scale requires the proper technology, money, political cooperation, all of which pose unique—and seemingly insurmountable—challenges.

On Friday’s episode of What Next: TBD, I spoke with Clive Thompson, journalist and author of Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World, about the race to suck carbon out of the air. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Lizzie O’Leary: You recently wrote a story, which ran in Mother Jones, about direct air carbon capture, a new technology that might be helpful in addressing the climate crisis. What is DAC?

Clive Thompson: Direct air carbon capture is basically the art and science of extracting CO2 from the air. You create a machine that uses a chemical process to bind CO2 and turn it into something that you can then store somewhere. Maybe you shove it really deep in the ground so it’s gone, maybe you turn it into something else that you can use.

Who is actually making the DAC technology?

So at the high end, you have a company like Carbon Engineering, which is up in Canada. And the way it works is that they have a big machine that’s the size of a building, with a huge fan on top of it that sucks air in and blows it down into a pool of liquid sorbent.

Then it reacts. Once there’s lots of CO2 in the sorbent, they use a process that requires temperatures of hundreds and hundreds of degrees to turn it into CO2 that can be stored as a pressurized gas. The downside is that a lot of energy is needed to run that machine. That’s one model.

What’s the other model?

The other model is to have much smaller machines that you could tuck anywhere that use a lot less energy, which is great, but they also don’t suck quite as much CO2 out of the air. Klaus Lackner [a professor at Arizona State University] created a tree of these discs that stands 30 feet high, and the wind just blows air past it.

That reacts with the sorbent inside these discs, and then once every hour or so when the discs are full of CO2, it collapses down almost like an umbrella, and squeezes it out with a little bit of heat. They’re so low-energy that he imagines you might need tens of millions of them, but you could put them literally anywhere.

Direct air capture sounds very sci-fi. When we’re thinking about it in the public policy arena, it seems like there are two big questions: What would it take scientifically to do this at scale, and what would it take practically and politically?

What you’d need to really do this is an almost wartime mobilization of resources. And, there are lots and lots of choke points. You’d need tons of that sorbent chemical. You’d need to figure out a lot of issues: Where do you put all that carbon? What do you do with that stuff? But could you get it out of the sky, could you do that at scale? Yes. I think you could.

On a practical level, even saying there was the global will for this, it seems like there are three big structural hurdles: cost, transportation and storage. How much does it cost to do this?

The estimate that I most often heard is that right now the cheapest they can do is about $500 per ton of CO2. Everyone who looks at this field basically says that that is way too much. That is way too expensive to be able to do what we need to do. Because the IPCC was talking about removing 10 gigatons a year, which is billions of tons. So at 500 per ton, you’re talking about trillions and trillions of dollars.

So, what price does it need to get to? No one really knows. But if it were around $100 per ton, then there starts to be a more of a market for this stuff. If you got it down to $50 or $10 a ton, then you’re really talking.

There’s another issue besides cost. How can you move the carbon dioxide once you’ve got it?

These machines could be anywhere. They could be in Boston, they could be out in the desert in Arizona, they could be all over the place, and you need to have a pipeline. And piping CO2 is really not easy because it is a highly pressurized gas.

If you have a leak, it’s really bad stuff. It erupts with high pressure, it is an asphyxiating gas so it would kill people, and worse of all it hangs low to the ground. It’s heavier than air if it’s in a dense quantity.

You’re not really selling direct air capture to me here.

Let me make it a little bit worse by pointing out that traditionally pipelines get run through Indigenous lands. So yeah, am I selling it? No. My goal with this story was to paint a very realistic picture of the enormous opportunity but the enormous challenge here.

I’m not saying it would be impossible to do that, and if it became like “we have no other option,” then I guess we would bite the bullet and figure it out. But it’s something you’d want to really think hard and plan for if you’re going to do it, which is a good reason to think about the problems now.

The other level of this story that takes it to another bananas head-scratching place is that it seems from your reporting that the only players who could afford to do this, who have a really vested interest in doing this, are Big Oil companies.

Yeah.
This is the issue that really alarms a lot of environmentalists about direct air capture. Nearly all of the projects that I’ve been telling you about here are all being developed hand in glove with oil and gas companies, fossil fuel companies. Why is that? Well, the people who understand how to build things at scale that have to do with energy and how to move gases around are the oil and gas companies. They’ve got decades of experience in this. So they’re the first obvious partners.

What do you do with that CO2 when you’ve captured it? We talked about shoving it in the ground to get rid of it. The problem is that in the short run—and by the short run I mean a decade or more—there’s really no one who’s planning to shove that in the ground. What all of these projects are doing is working with oil and gas companies to do something that creates a market for the reuse of that CO2.

There is a market right now for CO2, but it’s niche. There’s a company in Texas, for example, that uses it to get the last drops of oil and gas out of nearly empty wells.  It’s something other companies might adopt. And that brings us back to this question of environmentalists having to work with or rely on oil companies. Are some environmentalists able to say, “OK, this involves a deal with the devil but it gets us there”? Or is it just like, “No, that’s a nonstarter”?

Environmentalists are divided on this. Many of the environmentalists, I would say the majority of them, said to me, “We think this is a costly distraction. We think that all the money being put into developing direct air capture should just be put into scaling out renewables dramatically right now.

Innovating on that front. That is how we decarbonize. We do it by just rapidly throwing everything we can at this. And we seal the oil and gas companies out of this process because they are just bad news.” These environmentalists argue that oil and gas companies just want this tech to exist as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Because it helps them reduce their net emissions?

Yeah. It would become this way of saying, “Hey, we’re net neutral! We’re creating lots more emissions by selling lots of oil and gas, but we’re also shoving it in the ground.” Or even worse, they’ll develop this technology a little bit, but never get serious enough about it. This is what’s known as the moral hazard argument.

If you start developing the technology, it takes the pressure off of society to decarbonize its energy production. If you think that there is a magic solution coming 10 or 20 years from now, then yeah, maybe it’s OK to keep burning oil and gas and maybe we don’t need to aggressively roll out solar and renewables.

The thing about direct air capture that is so fascinating is how complicated it is. Not in terms of the tech, but in terms of the moral and ethical equations around it.

Among other things, direct air capture would allow for a certain level of environmental and economic justice insofar as we’re now in a situation where parts of the Global South are rapidly trying to expand their economies, and to do that you need lots and lots of cheap energy right now.

Those societies want to do what we did, which is to burn lots of oil and gas to get themselves as prosperous as possible as quickly as possible. So the progressive argument is that maybe it’s up to the developed countries that made this mess to work on direct air capture and clean up the problem for the countries that we have trod all over in the last 50 or 100 years.

Would doing direct air capture on a global scale be an admission of defeat?

Yeah, absolutely. It would be a complete admission of defeat insofar as it would be us saying to ourselves, “We couldn’t change the way we lived.” For decades we were unwilling to do that. We knew in the ’90s that we needed to work on decarbonizing the economy as rapidly as possible and rolling out renewables and we didn’t do it.

We didn’t push for it. To the extent that a lot of citizens did push hard for it, they faced ferocious opposition from oil and gas companies and from many politicians who were absolutely in their pockets.

What do we know about how the oil companies are approaching these projects?

Several people said to me that one of the reasons why they are dubious of the motives of oil and gas companies is that none of them are really reorienting their spending habits around it. They’ve got R&D projects, but things only really change when you see what they do with their annual budgets. And with their annual budgets they’re still just drilling for oil.

Some people have said that the only way that we’re going to roll out million and millions of direct air capture machines and make it really cheap is if for the next 10 or 20 years we actually turn the CO2 back into liquid fuel and burn it again. When I say to them, “That sounds circular. Isn’t the point to get it out of the air and into the ground?” They’re like, “Well yes, but think of it this way.

What we’d be doing is decarbonizing the internal combustion engine.” So, the idea is we can keep on using all these trucks and all these planes and cars that have internal combustion engines, but we would actually have net zero emissions or as low as possible emissions. But, it’s a leap of faith.

Do you have any faith that this is going anywhere?

The only faith I have is the faith that comes from seeing things like solar succeed. One of the reasons why solar got so good is governments gave some subsidies and that took leadership, and that was good. And then that incentivized a marketplace of solar creators to go, “Hey, we can make money with this!”

I definitely feel gloomy all the time because of the lack of political urgency amongst the folks who run things. I also know that sometimes things can be working better than we imagine in different pockets of innovation and marketplaces and policies. But I don’t hold out great hope.

Image

By: Lizzie O’Leary

Lizzie O’Leary is the host of What Next: TBD, Slate’s show about technology, power, and the future. Previously, she created and hosted Marketplace Weekend. She has reported for CNN, Bloomberg News, and the New York Times Magazine, among others. She is also a contributing writer at the Atlantic.

Source: Can carbon capture solve the climate crisis?

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European Electric Car Sales Growth Will Slow Before Spurting, While China Lurks

Sales of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are exploding in Western Europe, but growth will slow over the next couple of years, restrained by the semiconductor shortage, and actions by manufacturers who will seek to push demand for internal combustion engine (ICE) powered vehicles before European Union regulations destroys ICE profitability.

Tesla TSLA +1.6% will retain its lead in BEV sales and profitability and only the best of traditional manufacturers like VW and Mercedes look like posing a serious challenge.

Meanwhile, Chinese carmakers, which tried and failed to penetrate Europe markets with traditional ICE cars, look like being much more of a threat with electric ones.

In Western Europe, BEVs are now linked with big numbers. Recently, sales passed one million in the year, while Germany recently announced there were now 1 million BEVs on its roads. BMW announced in early December it had sold its 1 millionth electric vehicle and plans to reach 2 million by 2025.

Western Europe includes the big markets of Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Spain.

BEV sales more than doubled in 2020 to just under 750,000 and jumped again this year with sales of 1,143,000, according to Schmidt Automotive Research, representing a market share of 10.3%. The pace of growth will slow though with market share rising to 12.0% in 2022, 13e.0% in 2023 and 15.0% in 2024, before jumping 5 points to 20.0% in 2025 and an estimated total of 2,860,000.

Fitch Ratings warns that even though the number of available electric cars and SUVs is increasing and battery technology is improving, range anxiety is still an issue, and a slow expansion of the charging infrastructure could impede a major step-up in EV sales.

In addition, EV profitability does not yet match that of ICE vehicles and (manufacturers) earnings and cash flows will remain burdened by further heavy technology investments over the next several years,” Fitch Ratings said in a report.

“Margin dilution from a higher share of EVs has been manageable for carmakers as government subsidies enticed EV buyers, but a gradual removal of the incentives could weigh on profitability in the medium term, diluting manufacturers’ margins but helping them to avoid (excess CO2) fines (from the EU). We also expect greater competition for European carmakers from new entrants, notably China,” Fitch Ratings said.

According to David Leah, analyst with LMC Automotive, the number of Chinese electric models in Europe has more than doubled over five years and government backing at home has given them a competitive advantage.

“This has allowed Chinese (manufacturers) to develop more competitive battery technology, as well as control large parts of the battery material chain, thus enabling them to achieve greater economies of scale. BEV prices have halved in China during the last 8 years, whilst increasing by 42%-55% in the West,” Leah said.

“As a result, Western (manufacturers) are playing catch up in the mass market BEV space, and the growing threat of new entrants has forced Western companies to reassess their competitiveness as competition intensifies,” Leah said.

Prospects for BEV sales won’t have been helped by news Wednesday one of the biggest selling electric cars in Europe, the Renault Zoe, was awarded zero stars in the Euro NCAP safety ratings, and the Dacia Spring only 1 star. Dacia is Renault’s value brand which uses mainly old technology to cut prices to the bone. Most modern vehicles score 5 stars in these tests.

Investment bank UBS expects strong global BEV sales, with Tesla remaining the undisputed leader.

“In 2021, Tesla has gapped away further from all others in terms of volume growth and margins, and Tesla’s lead should be undisputed in 2022 as battery cell supply could emerge as the next bottleneck for the industry,” UBS analyst Patrick Hummel said in a report.

“We expect global BEV sales to grow by about 60% again in 2022, reaching 7 million or 8% share globally. Only the fastest moving (traditional manufacturers) can avoid further bleeding to Tesla, such as Mercedes-Benz and VW Group. As BEV demand will likely continue to exceed supply, BEV pricing will be very solid and therefore margin parity vs. ICE cars reached over the next 1-2 years,” Hummel said.

And Schmidt Automotive Research said the slowing in BEV market share to 2024 is the result of manufacturers seeing a window to push profitable ICE vehicle sales before EU regulations on CO2 tighten. More regulation in 2027 will have a similar impact before BEV demand wins again, as ICE profit margins disintegrate.

Schmidt Automotive reckons BEV sales will gradually accelerate again and reach a market share of 60.0% by 2030, or 8.4 million vehicles.  VW has said its European BEV sales will hit 70% by 2030 while Ford Europe and Jaguar have set a 100% target.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

As a former European Automotive correspondent for Reuters, I’ve a spent a few years writing about the industry. I will penetrate the corporate

Source: European Electric Car Sales Growth Will Slow Before Spurting, While China Lurks

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Climate Crisis: Scientists Spot Warning Signs of Gulf Stream Collapse

Climate scientists have detected warning signs of the collapse of the Gulf Stream, one of the planet’s main potential tipping points.

The research found “an almost complete loss of stability over the last century” of the currents that researchers call the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). The currents are already at their slowest point in at least 1,600 years, but the new analysis shows they may be nearing a shutdown.

Such an event would have catastrophic consequences around the world, severely disrupting the rains that billions of people depend on for food in India, South America and West Africa; increasing storms and lowering temperatures in Europe; and pushing up the sea level off eastern North America. It would also further endanger the Amazon rainforest and Antarctic ice sheets.

The complexity of the AMOC system and uncertainty over levels of future global heating make it impossible to forecast the date of any collapse for now. It could be within a decade or two, or several centuries away. But the colossal impact it would have means it must never be allowed to happen, the scientists said.

“The signs of destabilisation being visible already is something that I wouldn’t have expected and that I find scary,” said Niklas Boers, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who did the research. “It’s something you just can’t [allow to] happen.”

It is not known what level of CO2 would trigger an AMOC collapse, he said. “So the only thing to do is keep emissions as low as possible. The likelihood of this extremely high-impact event happening increases with every gram of CO2 that we put into the atmosphere”.

Scientists are increasingly concerned about tipping points – large, fast and irreversible changes to the climate. Boers and his colleagues reported in May that a significant part of the Greenland ice sheet is on the brink, threatening a big rise in global sea level. Others have shown recently that the Amazon rainforest is now emitting more CO2 than it absorbs, and that the 2020 Siberian heatwave led to worrying releases of methane.

The world may already have crossed a series of tipping points, according to a 2019 analysis, resulting in “an existential threat to civilization”. A major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due on Monday, is expected to set out the worsening state of the climate crisis.

Boer’s research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, is titled “Observation-based early-warning signals for a collapse of the AMOC”. Ice-core and other data from the last 100,000 years show the AMOC has two states: a fast, strong one, as seen over recent millennia, and a slow, weak one. The data shows rising temperatures can make the AMOC switch abruptly between states over one to five decades.

The AMOC is driven by dense, salty seawater sinking into the Arctic ocean, but the melting of freshwater from Greenland’s ice sheet is slowing the process down earlier than climate models suggested.

Boers used the analogy of a chair to explain how changes in ocean temperature and salinity can reveal the AMOC’s instability. Pushing a chair alters its position, but does not affect its stability if all four legs remain on the floor. Tilting the chair changes both its position and stability.

Eight independently measured datasets of temperature and salinity going back as far as 150 years enabled Boers to show that global heating is indeed increasing the instability of the currents, not just changing their flow pattern.

The analysis concluded: “This decline [of the AMOC in recent decades] may be associated with an almost complete loss of stability over the course of the last century, and the AMOC could be close to a critical transition to its weak circulation mode.”

Levke Caesar, at Maynooth University in Ireland, who was not involved in the research, said: “The study method cannot give us an exact timing of a possible collapse, but the analysis presents evidence that the AMOC has already lost stability, which I take as a warning that we might be closer to an AMOC tipping than we think.”

David Thornalley, at University College London in the UK, whose work showed the AMOC is at its weakest point in 1,600 years, said: “These signs of decreasing stability are concerning. But we still don’t know if a collapse will occur, or how close we might be to it.”

By: Environment editor

Source: Climate crisis: Scientists spot warning signs of Gulf Stream collapse | Climate change | The Guardian

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Net Zero Natural Gas Plant The Game Changer

NET Power’s 50 MWth Demonstration Plant in La Porte, Texas.

An actual game changing technology is being demonstrated as we sit in our air-conditioned abodes reading this. And it is being demonstrated by North Carolina–based Net Power at a new plant in La Porte, Texas.

The process involves burning fossil fuel with oxygen instead of air to generate electricity without emitting any carbon dioxide (CO2). Not using air also avoids generating NOx, the main atmospheric and health contaminant emitted from gas plants.

Included in a group of technologies known as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), zero-emission fossil fuel plants have been a dream never realized in practice, as it always seems to cost a lot, adding between 5¢ and 10¢ per kWh. This is probably because most attempts just add on another step after the traditional electricity generation steps, almost as an afterthought.

Some fossil fuel plants have tried, and failed, the most famous one recently being the $7.5 billion coal power plant in Kemper, Mississippi.

But this new technology completely changes the steps and the approach from the ground up. It is based on the Allam Cycle, a new, high-pressure, oxy-fuel, supercritical CO2 cycle that generates low-cost electricity from fossil fuels while producing near-zero air emissions.

All CO2 that is generated by the cycle is produced as a high-pressure, pipeline-ready by-product for use in enhanced oil recovery and industrial processes, or that can be sequestered underground in tight geologic formations where it will not get out to the atmosphere for millions of years.

The Allam Cycle also means the power plant is a lot smaller and can be sited in more areas than older plants can.

The Allam Cycle of Net Power’s new zero-emission natural gas plant.

The Allam Cycle of Net Power’s new zero-emission natural gas plant.

Net Power

This 50 MW Texas plant is demonstrating that the technology works, especially to investors. So the project has some heavy hitters as partners – Exelon Generation will operate the plant, the infrastructure firm CB&I will provide engineering and construction, 8 Rivers Capital, Net Power’s parent will provide continuing technology development, and Toshiba will develop the key components, particularly its new CO2-turbine.

Most power plants rely on thermal power cycles for energy production. These systems create heat by burning fossil fuel using the oxygen in air. In coal plants, this takes place in a large boiler, where coal is burned and water is boiled to create high pressure steam.  This high-pressure steam then expands through a steam turbine, creating power.

In combined cycle gas turbine power plants, natural gas or coal syngas is burned in a combustor with compressed air. The heated gases then expand and drive a gas turbine. The turbine exhaust is extremely hot, so it is subsequently used to boil water to create high pressure steam and drive a steam turbine, thereby combining cycles. In both systems, aqueous steam is essential to the process as a working fluid.

Not so in an Allum Cycle plant like Net Power’s. At their Texas demonstration plant, the natural gas is burned with a mixture of hot CO2 and oxygen, known as oxy-combustion. The resulting working fluid is a mix of high-pressure CO2 and water, which is subsequently expanded through a turbine and then cooled in a heat exchanger (a recuperator).

This is key. The turbine is not turned with steam, but with CO2.

The water then condenses and is separated out, leaving a pure vapor-phase CO2 stream. That stream is compressed and pumped back up to high pressure for re-use, but the excess CO2 is sent to a pipeline, ready for export.

The remaining fluid stream is reheated in the recuperator and makes its way back to the combustor, where the hot, high-pressure CO2 helps the combustor achieve a final inlet temperature of about 1,150°C as it combusts with fresh natural gas and oxygen, the high temperature raising the efficiency significantly.

The plant can also be air-cooled, at the cost of a little efficiency, to avoid water use in arid regions and to actually produce water from the methane and oxygen.

By using a CO2 working fluid at very high pressures as opposed to steam, NET Power avoids the phase changes that cause steam cycles to be so inefficient. Instead of driving a steam cycle and losing heat energy up a stack, NET Power keeps heat within the system, meaning less fuel is needed for the turbine to reach the required operating temperature.

And they don’t even have a stack.

Federal tax credits for carbon-capture projects are helping get this demonstration off the ground, providing a $50 tax credit for every ton of carbon sequestered. The NET Power plant captures all of its CO2 as part of its process, recycles some and diverts some for sale.

Adam Goff, a principal at NET Power’s parent company, discussed how this technology will really make a difference to global warming – in developing countries. These countries desperately need energy and are planning to install thousands of traditional coal plants, representing the largest potential increase in carbon emissions over the next several decades.

Said Goff, “…most projects aren’t going to be in the U.S. They’re going to be in your developing countries in Asia and in Africa, so you’re going to see China, India, Indonesia. To do that you have to be really cheap. You have to be at cost parity if not better than cost parity with conventional generation.”

The CO2 angle is very unique. NET Power’s plant produces a high-pressure, high-quality CO2 byproduct that is pipeline-ready. This CO2 can be sequestered or used in industrial processes, such as enhanced oil recovery. EOR is a decades-old process that uses CO2 to extract significantly more oil from old oilfields while permanently storing CO2 underground. In the United States alone, 85 billion barrels of oil are recoverable using EOR.

Most industrial CO2 capture technologies cannot produce cost-effective, EOR-ready CO2, despite the fact that the industry is tremendously CO2-starved. NET Power will have both the capacity and economics to enable the EOR industry to unlock this vast resource while simultaneously sequestering CO2 from thousands of power plants below ground.

And it is the sequestering of CO2 that is probably the most difficult part of this process. Yes, we can use CO2 now, but if we go to these net zero plants in a big way, we don’t have enough industrial need for all the CO2 from generating trillions of kWhs every year.

So it will have to be injected underground, and so far that hasn’t been successful in any big way without some side effects, like earthquakes. But that is a geoengineering need we can address.

The cost of electricity generated by Net Power is even more interesting. The plant doesn’t just sell power like most plants, it also sells the CO2 and other cycle by-products including nitrogen and argon.

These sales bring the cost of electricity from NET Power’s plant down to 1.9¢ per kilowatt hour, Goff said, compared to 4.2¢ for a traditional combined cycle natural gas plant, making this the cheapest source of electricity, and with no carbon emissions.

If the plant in La Porte performs as expected, and as it has so far, this is a real game changer for natural gas. Since the United States is sitting on more natural gas than any country in the world, and it’s getting cheaper to get it out of the ground, this is no small game to change.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I have been a scientist in the field of the earth and environmental sciences for 33 years, specializing in geologic disposal of nuclear waste, energy-related research

Source: Net Zero Natural Gas Plant — The Game Changer

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